Kerry, Karzai at odds over Taliban leader's death

Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai traded a series of verbal jabs over the weekend over an American drone strike that reportedly killed the Pakistani Taliban's top commander. 

Hakimullah Mehsud and five other Taliban members were reportedly leaving a mosque outside the Dande Darpakhel area of North Waziristan when their vehicle was hit, intelligence officials in Peshawar said Friday.  

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The Taliban leader's driver, Abdullah Bahar Mehsud, and personal bodyguard, Tariq Mehsud, were also killed in the drone strike, according to recent reports. 

But Karzai criticized the timing of Washington's decision to take out the top Taliban leader, just as Meshud was reportedly beginning peace talks with Kabul and Islamabad. 

The Afghan president expressed those concerns during a meeting with a U.S. congressional delegation visiting the country over the weekend, according to CNN

The talks between Mehsud, Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif  were announced during a bilateral security summit between Sharif and Karzai in London, hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron. 

"The dialogue with the Taliban has started. He said that he hoped and prayed the dialogue works within the constitutional framework of Pakistan," according to a joint statement by Sharif and British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on last Wednesday. 

On Saturday, Sharif summoned U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson to protest the Mehsud drone strike, claiming the attack not only put possible peace talks in jeopardy but also violated of Pakistan's sovereignty. 

"The murder of Hakimullah is the murder of all efforts at peace," Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said.

"Americans said they support our efforts at peace. Is this support?" Nisar said Sunday, according to Reuters

In response, Kerry reiterated the White House's pledge to back Pakistan's efforts to eliminate Islamic extremists groups within its borders. 

"We are sensitive to the concerns of the country and we look forward to working very closely with the government of Pakistan," Kerry said in a statement Monday. 

"We intend to continue to work together with [Pakistan] through the strategic dialogue that we have established in order to work through these kinds of challenges," he said. 

However, Kerry adamantly defended the administration's decision to take out Mehsud, who has been a top, high-value target of U.S. military and intelligence counterterrorism operations for the past decade. 

"This is a man who absolutely is known to have targeted and killed many Americans, many Afghans and many Pakistanis," Kerry said. 

"A huge number of Pakistanis have died at the hands of Mehsud and his terrorist organization," he added. 

American drones have launched multiple drone strikes in North Waziristan and elsewhere along Pakistan's volatile border region with Afghanistan, in an attempt to take out the reclusive Taliban leader. 

Mehsud has managed to survive those efforts and evade capture by American and Pakistani forces, continuing to run the organization's terror operations from safe havens in northwest Pakistan. 

Those operations by Mehsud's group, known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, include attacks against military and civilian targets in Peshawar, Lahore and Islamabad, as well as cross-border attacks against American and allied forces inside Afghanistan. 

On Sunday, the group's remaining leadership vowed revenge for Mehsud's death, promising a wave of suicide bombings and attacks in Pakistan and elsewhere. 

"Every drop of Hakimullah's blood will turn into a suicide bomber," said Azam Tariq, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman.

"America and their friends shouldn't be happy because we will take revenge for our martyr's blood," he added.